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Posts Tagged ‘T20

John Howard Loses Support

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“That bloke’s making me look ordinary! He’s ruining my career!” said Phil Tufnell, the bad boy of English cricket in the 1990s, while stripping all his insecurity about Shane Warne.

India too finds itself in a situation where all that ails the cricketing universe is painted as its doing. The Australian, which presents itself as the heart of the nation, has had a ball in covering John Howard’s failed bid for ICC president-elect. Have a look at these supercilious comments from Malcolm Conn, the long-serving cricket writer for the Australian.

“It is more than anti-colonial resentment that has led the Afro-Asia bloc of the ICC to snub John Howard’s nomination as president. The former prime minister was rejected by the International Cricket Council for two far more pragmatic reasons: money and power.

There was a collective fear that he would ask awkward questions about one and do his best to dilute the other. India is cricket’s king-maker. It generates up to 80 per cent of the game’s wealth. But with enormous power comes responsibility.

By voting with an anti-colonial bloc instead of upholding the process it helped put in place, India has, once again, abused its power, just as it has by demanding the sacking of umpires and threatening to abandon tours if things did not go its way. In the end, cricket will suffer.

The ICC is a multi-billion-dollar organisation with a board run in the same way that poor park cricket associations have operated for 100 years. Howard lost the last federal election because he was considered from the past, not the future. At the ICC, he would have brought enlightenment—a frightening thought for men used to operating in dark corners.”

Now how did Malcolm Conn know that there was a collective fear that Howard would clean the ICC and member countries, especially India, had vested interest in not allowing that to happen? I guess it is not a good question to ask as Howard and those who are championing his cause are somehow the “unblemished upholders of fairness”.

So it is India’s fault, incredibly, that it generates 80 per cent of cricket’s wealth. Indian sports journalists are pretty happy to put the BCCI in a tight spot and there wouldn’t be much of a problem if Conn was doing so; but most of the stories in the Australian lack merit and are merely opinions masquerading as news.

“I might have more than 5,000 Test runs, but he makes 40 million bucks a movie,” Kiwi batsman Martin Crowe once said about his cousin and Hollywood actor Russell Crowe. You see money talks; whether it’s in New Zealand or in any other country. And to blame India for generating 80 per cent of cricket’s revenue is an exercise that reeks of envy.

Writer Gideon Haigh has more than a passing interest in the BCCI and the IPL. And I am not just talking about his last three pieces, though they are the ones that have brought him ‘fame’, but about the immense hard work that he has put in for more than a year in deconstructing the BCCI and the IPL. On March 26, 2009 Haigh wrote a piece about the IPL being hosted in South Africa.

“The fact is that the IPL would be occurring in Antarctica if there were direct flights, and it suited World Sport Group. And in that sense the Indianness of the tournament is more pronounced because it is imposed: the point is not to bring an attraction to another country but to create a satellite India on that country’s soil. And there is an old-fashioned word for such a form of exploitation: imperialism,” Haigh wrote.

I fail to see the similarities; in what way was India’s agenda forced on South Africa and who exactly was being exploited and how. South Africa readily accepted the offer of hosting the IPL on their land and the IPL came home after the two-month period unlike the East India Company that set the example of what exploitation means.

For many fans of Test cricket in India—there are scores who care a hoot about Twenty20 and useless ODIs—Haigh has been the go to writer. In a piece headlined ‘The Indianisation of cricket’, Haigh concluded with these words: “Power begetting responsibility, the sustainability of that model is another matter. The BCCI should understand that it is one thing to have earned the right to wield unipolar power, another to demonstrate deserving it.” Most cricket writers in India would agree with it. No one ever said that the BCCI or the IPL are beyond reproach.

It also does not mean that John Howard is beyond reproach. Haigh’s three-part defence of Howard’s candidature concludes with his piece titled ‘Cricket’s fig leaf of democracy’: “People in a room having a vote is not democracy. It depends on who they are, how they got there, and how faithfully they follow the rules of their organisation. Not even lots of people voting freely does a democracy make. Lots of people voted freely in South Africa in the days of apartheid; many more did not. Lots of people voted in Zimbabwe in 2008; guns spoke louder.”

Zimbabwe and its despotic regime are rightly condemned by the writer but he fails to mention that John Howard had no qualms about travelling to Harare in order to ease tensions and garner support. Also he fails to take note that Howard was resistant to the one genuine political cause in cricket’s history; the sporting ban on South Africa during the apartheid years.

Indian writer Mukul Kesavan got it bang on target in his piece titled ‘What was cricket Australia thinking?: “For Indians committed to cricket, specially Test cricket, the rottenness of cricket administration in general, and India’s cricket administration in particular, isn’t news. What is news is the spectacle of someone like Haigh, a liberal critic, quick-stepping around Howard’s record on race and then coming up with absolution.”

Howard has not lost any respect—he had little in the first place. On the other hand Haigh, despite his harsh criticism of the way the game is run in-and-by India, had a lot of following among people disappointed by the increasing deviation of the game towards the shorter format. It is sad that he lost some of his goodwill trying to defend a divisive politician.

Melbourne-based author Christian Ryan put Howard’s past in perspective in his Cricinfo column and he shows how the one word that describes the policies of Howard best is divisive.

“Still, in the hour of junk cricket’s ascendancy, it is tempting to suppose that Howard, who likes his cricket best when its plots and subplots reveal themselves slowly, in soft sunshine, over five days, could do the game some good.

But would he? Would he really? In answering that question, it would be sloppy thinking not to consider his history as prime minister of Australia.”

It is not India or the BCCI that has decided Howard’s fate. It is Howard’s own putrid history that has led to his undoing here.


The Curious Case Of Rohit Sharma

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It was great to sit back and watch Rohit Sharma make an audacious and unbeaten 79 in 46 balls at number 4 in India’s T20 match against Australia where seven other batsmen who played above and below him made a total of 24 runs in 42 balls. Harbhajan Singh, who made 13 runs batting at number nine, was the only other Indian player to get to double figures.

Sharma appears to be out of favour with the Indian selectors and the team management. This could be due to his patchy ODI form and it also seems like he has been the fall guy after India’s early exit from the 2009 T20 World Cup in England. Sharma has an average of 40 in international T20 matches; something that can be called phenomenal in the shortest format.

The ODI average of Rohit Sharma is a low 25.62 in 42 matches and it belies his obvious talent. He has been in and out of the playing XI and on the last few occasions he has got a chance only after the series has been secured. Sharma belongs to a different breed of batsmen. He is easy on the eye and has all the time in the world to play his strokes. His first class average of 55.02, at a still early phase of his career, shows where he really belongs and such players don’t come that often to be wasted in warming the bench. In the team that took on Australia in Bridgetown no other player bar Gautam Gambhir has a better first class average than Sharma.

The longer the format of the game the better should be the chances of Sharma being in the playing XI. One of his memorable innings in a pressure situation should be reason enough to give him a longer run to prove himself.

The first final of the Commonwealth Bank Series in 2008 was played on the second of March between India and Australia in Sydney. Australia won the toss, decided to bat, and India restricted them to 239 runs as Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla bowled 20 overs between themselves for just 71 runs. Harbhajan also took two important wickets.

The first half of the game had gone well for India and they needed to back it up with smart cricket in the other half to win the game. At 87 for 3 in 18.5 overs, with the match hanging on a knife’s edge, the young Rohit Sharma joined Sachin Tendulkar who was batting on 50 in 56 balls.

Sharma started in style by hitting two gorgeous straight drives to pick boundaries in back-to-back overs by Nathan Bracken. The fourth wicket partnership added 123 runs at a fair clip to set up a perfect run chase that became completely one-sided by the time Sharma departed in the 42nd over having made an assured 66 in his beautiful languid style.

Tendulkar made an unbeaten 116 and was all praise for the way Rohit batted. “Rohit Sharma really batted well, full credit to him. He has a terrific head on his shoulders, he’s calm and composed, and today I batted with him for the first time for such a long time.” Australia’s bowling attack had Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken, Brad Hogg and James Hopes.

Ian Chappell didn’t need that innings to see Sharma as a special talent as he had already taken that position by seeing him in the earlier games. Sharma then became one of the success stories of the inaugural T20 World Cup that India won; scoring a 50 not out against South Africa and then a crucial 30 off 16 balls in the final against Pakistan.

In the next edition in England, Sharma was made to open the Indian innings despite his great success down the order in the previous year. He did well in the games against Bangladesh and Ireland but was found wanting against West Indies and England, who used to short ball to good effect at Lord’s.

In total contrast Ravindra Jadeja is fast gaining a reputation as the man of the opposition on our side. In Bridgetown it was Jadeja who got Australia started after the first three overs had gone for just 16. The last three balls of his first over were rank long hops that Watson hit out of the park and then it was Warner who carted the first three length deliveries of his next over for sixes.

Jadeja’s highest score of 25 in a T20 international came against England and cost India the match. He walked in at two down and took 35 balls to score 25 runs and in the end it proved to be a very expensive experiment. Yuvraj had made 60 plus in the previous game but he was held back as Dhoni did not want to put extra pressure on him. Jadeja’s cameo ensured that Yuvraj walked in with much more pressure than he would have had at his number four position. He made 17 off 9 balls with two sixes and was then beautifully stumped off the bowling of Graeme Swann. Dhoni remained not out on 30 and Pathan on 33 off 20 and 17 balls respectively and despite that India fell short by four runs. Dhoni defended the promotion in a press conference but on the ground it had proved to be a daft move.

In the ODI against Australia where Tendulkar was raging a lone battle to take India past 350 in Hyderabad Jadeja provided him good support at number eight. Nineteen runs were needed in the last 18 balls when Tendulkar mistimed a scoop over fine leg and departed having made 175. Jadeja was batting well having scored 23 off 16 balls and all he needed was to keep his cool. This is how Cricinfo’s commentary described his run out: Exit SRT and the collapse begins. Jadeja is run out. He was run out last game under similar pressure conditions and he has succumbed again. It was pushed straight to cover and Jadjea sets for a non-existent single. Praveen Kumar does the obvious thing: sends him back but too late. The throw comes in to the bowler who takes out the stumps. Australian fielders erupt in joy.

Rohit Sharma has delivered in pressure situations and he should be a natural selection in the playing XI while Jadeja has panicked more than once and he should be made to sweat before giving him a game.

Three Cheers For Afghanistan

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When Afghanistan took on India on Saturday at the World T20 championship American novelist Marvin Cohen’s words came to my mind: “Life is an elaborate metaphor for cricket.”

War-ravaged Afghanistan’s journey from refugee camps to the elite league of cricket is nothing short of heroic and they played extremely-well considering the context. One Afghan player got to a fifty faster than a run a ball and another bowled sharply and with purpose. There was no hesitancy in running between the wickets and everyone noticed that the players were not overawed. Why would they be? South African captain Graeme Smith was quoted by the New York Times, when told that an Afghan batsman had declared himself unafraid of Dale Steyn—one of the world’s fastest bowlers—as saying: “I wouldn’t be either, if I had grown up in a war zone.”

The great Australian all-rounder and World War II fighter pilot Keith Miller had a very relaxed attitude on the playing field that enchanted spectators and made him a favourite of the English public. He attributed this to the fact that sport was trivial in comparison to war. When asked many years later about pressure on the cricket field Miller responded with the famous quote: “Pressure is a Messerschmitt (German fighter plane) up your arse, playing cricket is not.”

Richard Downey, the Archbishop of Liverpool from 1928 to his death in 1953, made a curious observation about cricket when he said: “If Stalin had learned to play cricket, the world might now be a better place.” That gives us the context as the Cold War’s last and most poignant battle was fought in the treacherous terrain of Afghanistan.

Is cricket really trivial compared to war? For help I turn to Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera and to his amazing novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

“At a time when history still made its way slowly, the few events were easily remembered and woven into a backdrop, known to everyone, before which private life unfolded the gripping show of its adventures. Nowadays, time moves forward at a rapid pace. Forgotten overnight, a historic event glistens the next day like the morning dew and thus is no longer the backdrop to a narrator’s tale but rather an amazing adventure enacted against the background of the over-familiar banality of private life.

Since there is no single historic event we can count on being commonly known, I must speak of events that took place a few years ago as if they were a thousand years old: In 1939, the German army entered Bohemia, and the Czech state ceased to exist. In 1945, the Russian army entered Bohemia, and the country once again was called an independent republic.”

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a study of variations. ‘The various parts follow each other like the various stages of a voyage leading into the interior of a theme, the interior of a thought, the interior of a single, unique situation the understanding of which recedes from my sight into the distance.’ Mirek says in the opening chapter of the novel: The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. The chapter that brings out the thought behind this piece is the second chapter that contains an orgy of pleasure taking place under the larger canvas of pain.

“Karel shrugged his shoulders in resignation. Marketa was right: Mama had really changed. She was pleased with everything, grateful for everything. Karel had been expecting in vain a quarrel over some little thing.
On a walk a day or two before, she had gazed into the distance and asked: ‘What is that pretty little white village over there?’ It wasn’t a village, just boundary stones. Karel took pity on his mother, whose sight was dimming. But her faulty vision seemed to express something more basic: what appeared large to them, she found small; what they took for boundary stones, for her were distant houses.

To tell the truth, that was not an entirely new trait of hers. The difference was that at one time it had annoyed them. One night, for instance, their country was invaded by the tanks of a gigantic neighbouring country. That had been such a shock and brought such terror that for a long time no one could think of anything else. It was August, and the pears in their garden were ripe. A week earlier, Mama had invited the pharmacist to come and pick them. But the pharmacist neither came nor even apologized. Mama was unable to forgive him, which infuriated Karel and Marketa. They reproached her: Everyone else is thinking about tanks, and you’re thinking about pears. Then they moved out, taking the memory of her pettiness with them.

But are tanks really more important than pears? As time went by, Karel realized that the answer to this question was not as obvious as he had always thought, and he began to feel a secret sympathy for Mama’s perspective, which had a big pear tree in the foreground and somewhere in the distance a tank no bigger than a ladybug, ready at any moment to fly away out of sight. Ah yes! In reality it’s Mama who is right: tanks are perishable, pears are eternal.”

Is This A Gentleman’s Game?

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Cricket was a gentleman’s game. This was that I have used in the previous sentence was an is to a certain degree when the game was played in whites and the dirt it attracted was largely on the ground and could pass off as a by product of tough competitive cricket at the highest level—showing a bit of ‘mongrel’ as the Aussies would put it. These days the whites are not among the clothes that need daily washing in the home of a cricketer and there is too much colour in the game for the liking of those fans that prefer their cricketers in white.

Australian media mogul Kerry Packer was the first ‘visionary’. He brought coloured clothes, night cricket and a rival league of top cricketers called the World Series Cricket (WSC) in the late seventies and the game was never the same again with Wisden using the terminology ‘the world before Packer and the world after Packer’. Indian players were not involved with the rebel tours of WSC and the meteoric rise of the game in India started after they won the 1983 World Cup and it gained momentum post-liberalisation in the nineties.

Money was at the core of the Packer schism and it accelerated changes in the pay structure of players and umpires. The Wisden Anthology, 1978-2006, edited by Stephen Moss is a delight for the cricket lover as it records the movement of the game through the years. It has the pace of a timeless cricket match and the reader can approach it in an unhurried manner one piece at a time. It went to press before the vapid commercialisation of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Stephen Moss in a section called Mammon wrote: “Wisden has been preoccupied with getting that balance right (of game and business), and has fought strenuously to protect the traditions of the game from being sullied by an excess of commercialisation. Its contention might be that if the game is only played for money, it isn’t worth playing.

…We should be ever vigilant but, compared with football, tennis, golf or the corporate beanfeasts that are American sports, cricket retains some degree of innocence. It has not yet sold its soul to the financial devil. Packerism transformed it without destroying it.” This cannot be said about cricket anymore.

Ceremonial and elaborate Test cricket has now taken a backseat and IPL, the high-profile entertainment package of Twenty20 cricket, is having a taxing time. This may be the ideal time to pause and think and to see where the game is heading. The crisis that came to the fore via some tweets has presented a wonderful opportunity to clean the entire mess. India is the financial powerhouse of cricket and it is not unalloyed by love of lucre and mean jealousies that threaten the very existence of the game. What precisely is the difference between the ICL and the IPL apart from the fact that one of them has the blessings of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)?

The IPL is supposed to make millions of dollars for the franchise owners and the BCCI while at the same time rewarding players generously; but, in my view, it has precious little to do as far as the betterment of cricket is concerned. The addition of two new teams would mean around 90 matches if the same format continues. It would make any cricket lover sick and also put immense pressure on players who are also representing their countries in the other two formats.

Having paid hefty amounts for the teams and then for the players the owners according to one estimate would incur losses for the first 10 years before they see some earnings. It is quite possible that in such a scenario the IPL starts thinking of having the tournament more than once a year. That would be the end of cricket as we have known it and young players would hone their skills to maximise their income via T20 and the rigour and discipline required for Test cricket would find few takers.

What is the locus standi of the BCCI with respect to seeing that Test cricket retains its pre-eminent status in cricket’s pecking order? Is the BCCI a charitable organisation? Where are we headed with the ICC’s Future Tours Programme? This opportunity must not be limited to just checking the account books of the IPL while allowing the BCCI to continue as it always has. It is the working of the BCCI that should be made transparent and open to scrutiny and the matter should not rest with just a witch hunt.

The BCCI is full of politicians and it means that there would be efforts to reach at some sort of a settlement without the public getting to know the truth. A few months ago the daring Sehwag stood up against rampant corruption in the DDCA and the crisis was finally settled by assurances from the President of the DDCA.

The BCCI has its own constitution and that is how it plays the game and if not to anyone else the Board should at least be answerable to the fans. The fans who invest their blood and their soul are the real stakeholders of the game and it would be naïve to presume that their trust would remain unabated when controversies are just swept under the carpet. The world’s richest cricket board needs to realise that it cannot function poorly.

Written by Deepan Joshi

April 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Twenty20: A Country For Old Men

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In comparison to the well-over-a-century-old Test Cricket and almost four decades of One Day Internationals, Twenty20 can certainly be called the ‘New Kid in Town’; a smash hit and wonderful song of The Eagles. However, it is the title of the multi-Oscar winning film ‘No Country For Old Men’ that puts the current IPL in perspective; only because it provides the perfect and sharp contrast.

The ‘so-called old men’ of cricket are having a ball at the game that is supposed to be tailor-made for young and fresh legs and that has been the biggest thrill that the tournament has provided so far. Who would have thought that the top names of the third season of IPL would feature Jacques Kallis, Chaminda Vaas, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, Murali, Gilchrist etc?

Jacques Kallis has been phenomenal and he brings so much to the table with his rock solid batting that is sprinkled with assured and audacious stroke-play, his more than handy bowling, and safe catching to top it all. The graph of the Royal Challengers Bangalore has just kept going up since Kumble took charge of the team and besides leadership he has also adapted his bowling to the demands of this format that can easily kill the spirit of a bowler. But then what format can kill the spirit of a bowler like Kumble, even if he is measured in four over spells?

What these old men have proved is that no matter what the format one would be a fool to consider them as just a few guests at a party being hosted for someone else. It may not be right to club Andrew Symonds with the old lot but it’s worthwhile to note that he is about 35 and has been around for a while. Symonds changed a game by plucking out a beauty with sheer brilliance and the catch was so good that his pointing the finger ever so slowly towards the dressing room almost looked like an understatement.

It was the moment that changed the game on its head. Karthik was batting on 42 from 25 balls and the Delhi Daredevils were 152 for 5 needing 20 runs in 12 balls when Symonds came on to bowl the penultimate over having gone for just 15 in his three overs in which he had picked one wicket.

The momentum had just swung in the favour of Delhi with Karthik having hit Rohit Sharma for two fours and a six and then taken a single to retain strike. The first ball of the 19th over went for four with Karthik playing a lovely square cut and Delhi needed 16 from 11 balls with 5 wickets in hand. That is when Symonds came up with that magical catch that would gone for a certain boundary but for those outstretched fingers and the lunging towards the right side body of a superb athlete.

It was a great over in which he picked another wicket and gave a buffer of 14 runs for the crafty and retired from international cricket Vaas. Vaas was accurate as ever and two more wickets fell in the first two balls of Vaas and it was Deccan all the way.

The three top teams right now are captained by Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, and Adam Gilchrist; two retired and one the longest-serving Master on the circuit. Tendulkar notched up his second fifty of IPL 3 when his unbeaten 71 saw Mumbai home in the penultimate over against Kolkata. It was the bowlers who had restricted Kolkata for an under par score by sticking to their line and full length and then as Atul Wasan pointed out it was the professor coming out himself and giving everyone a demonstration of how it is done. The masterclass of Tendulkar was there to see.

This new kid called T20 certainly enjoys having the oldies around. The shorter form requires just about three hours of field work and that could be the reason why it is proving to be such a good country for old men.

Why Cricket Needs A New Game Plan

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They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.
— The Merchant of Venice

When Christopher Martin-Jenkins used this Shakespearean beginning to cry out for less cricket in 2003 the world was not going through as acute a food crisis or as humungous a surfeit of cricket entertainment as it is now. Twenty20 was not even in the womb and a private enterprise like the IPL was nowhere in the distant horizon.

“The media have to take it on the chin: we make a lifelong living from the game and there are ways of sharing the load. But for players there is sometimes no way off the treadmill,” Jenkins wrote. In six years after that we have crossed many oceans and packed double the amount of cricket in half the time and the ‘whole cricket system is blinking red’ and needs urgent attention and a solid roadmap.

What Cricket needs is a convention that considers all issues and takes a comprehensive look at the state of the game; something that can be metaphorically-likened to world leaders trying to grapple with global warming and the threat it poses to our planet. Left unattended the game would flow towards instant gratification and instant super-stardom as the pot of gold for new generation fans and the younger players respectively.

Just see the number of injuries on the circuit and the number of careers that could have been great but are just footnotes now and you’ll get the point. Are the administrators in their hurry failing to take care of the goose that lays golden eggs? Fast bowlers are fast becoming a dying breed and we’ve already seen a few express ones bowing out of Test cricket.

In this milieu the discussion between Harsha Bhogle, Sanjay Manjrekar, Lalit Modi, and Gideon Haigh in Time Out for Cricinfo has been refreshing and heartening. Lalit Modi spoke about just a seven-week window for the shortest form and how Test cricket is the most important form of the game.

“Test cricket is, actually, the highest-paying entity for the board. Test cricket is actually our bread and butter, which people don’t understand. We are never going to compromise on Test cricket. In fact, our viewership is high for Test cricket. When I talked about doing something for Test cricket, it’s for other countries where Test cricket is going down. In India, our ratings are going up. We are tracking that year by year, it’s going much better for us, and in fact we get paid highest for Test cricket,” said Lalit Modi.

As surprising as the Modi quote may seem it can’t beat the one given by Sanjay Manjrekar: “The fact is that the IPL, at the moment, is the most popular cricket product we have. And it’s something we’ve got to respect. It has also shown Test cricket and 50-overs cricket what they are lacking.

I think it’s important to have more and more people getting interested in sport, more and more countries getting interested in the sport. For the last 10-15 years, we haven’t seen too many countries seriously getting into cricket. So that tells you a bit about 50-overs cricket and Test match cricket. Maybe Twenty20 and IPL can start doing that.”

That tells me just one thing: Sanjay Manjrekar has lost it.

Is cricket a trade that more and more people and countries should get interested in it? Maybe Twenty20 can foster greater understanding between the US and Afghanistan or between US and Iraq. And it would be great for humanity if the Taliban and the Coalition Forces meet each other on a cricket field and leave the battlefield for good. If that happens then I’ll be the first person to celebrate and embrace Twenty20 as the global unifier.

For the sub-continent it may prove to be the biggest boon—the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project can be negotiated at the toss— as Twenty20, generally, and IPL, specifically, may bring Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India together. You’ve also got the perfect advertisement ready: IPL achieves what the IPI could not.

The circle was complete when the US joined the league and thus brought all stakeholders in the War on Terror together under the gospel of Twenty20. Europe is easy with England, Ireland and Holland already playing cricket and the ECB can be given the responsibility to get new recruits. Afghanistan has already played the United States in a Twenty20 game on February 11, 2010. Maybe IPL is the way out from the human condition. Maybe.

Manjrekar sees the last 10 to 15 years as bleak for cricket because there have been no serious new converts but he forgets to check that cricket history is over 132-years-old and we all know why eight countries are seeped in a cricketing culture.

When people who have played Test cricket start saying things like we need more countries getting interested in the sport and when Test cricket’s premier bowler of the last two decades lavishes praise without context then it makes me wonder just how much money is the IPL generating for everyone to say it is the greatest thing to happen to mankind since the wheel.

Even if the shorter form is good and caters to the taste of the majority it would be worth considering that Shakespeare hit the nail on the head when he said: An overflow of good converts to bad.

On Brilliant Hitting And Great Batting

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The effort of the IPL sponsors and the marketers of the game got a great advertisement in the match between the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals. This was a shorter form of the delight that IPL is hoping to cash on. Mumbai won the toss and batted first and got to a healthy 212 courtesy a good start and some wonderful middle-order batting.

The Mumbai Indians dominated the match for the first 27 overs with the Royals tottering at 43 for 3 which soon became 66 for 4 in 9.2 overs when Paras Dogra joined Yusuf Pathan. At the end of 10 overs the Royals were 69 for 4 and needed 144 runs in 60 balls. Pathan was 15 in 13 balls with a six and Dogra was 2 in 2.
It was that situation for which captains would tell you to go and knock the daylights out of the bowling attack without losing your wicket. Pathan got the message and played himself in before the carnage began with three consecutive sixes off Murtaza.

Dogra brought Pathan back on strike with a single and then it was 6446Wd4; 26 off Sathish. Then it was McLaren and again Dogra pinched a single and Pathan went 44Wd4Wd11; 17 in the over. Three overs leaked 62 runs and the match was alive with 82 needed off 42 balls.

Then there was some sanity as Tendulkar brought his two main weapons for an over each in a game where he was missing the magic of Harbhajan; who suffered a blow to his inner thigh while batting. Malinga and Khan gave 7 and 5 runs respectively to restore order and then Murtaza went for 11 in the 16th over of the innings leaving the Royals with 59 to get in 24 balls. Tendulkar needed two overs before he could go back to Zaheer and Malinga and with Pathan on 83 in 33 balls and Dogra on a boundary-less but calm 16 in 18 balls he picked the hard-to-get-under Jayasuriya.

The first three balls seemed to justify the decision with just singles coming and then Pathan launched into Jayasuriya and hit him for two massive sixes either side of a four—100 in 37 balls and Royals needing 40 in 18 balls. Sathish with a reputation of being India’s best fielder did a remarkable job at the non-striker’s end when he fielded and flicked Dogra’s drive to catch Pathan short and the Royals needing 40 off 17 balls.

That was when Dogra took over and the next four balls went 6, 6, 4, 4 and then he took a single to keep strike. The way the match had gone 19 off 12 balls should have been an easy ask but that is the value that regular good bowlers bring to the table. Zaheer Khan went for seven despite a first ball wide and Malinga was just phenomenal. He bowled a brilliant yorker and then ran Dogra out diving full stretch while picking the ball at the striker’s end. Next man was bowled and the buffer was more than enough for the brilliant Malinga to see Mumbai through.

It was a great effort by Pathan coming in at a hopeless situation and hitting cleanly and brilliantly. On October 4, 1996 at the Gymkhana Club Ground in Nairobi, a boy looking more than his official age of 16 years and 217 days and going by the name of Shahid Afridi came out to bat for the first time in his 2nd ODI match and made a 37-ball hundred against a Sri Lankan attack that had Vaas, Murali, Dhramasena among others. Andrew Symonds has a hundred in 34 balls.

Saying it was the best hitting I have ever seen is one thing and saying that it was the best innings I have seen quite another. It surely would not make the cut if I had to pick the 50 or 100 best innings I’ve ever seen but it would be right up there if I had to pick clean and brilliant hitting on a batting beauty with most of the runs coming off part-timers. Would Shane Warne pick him in the Test squad on the basis of this innings? Would the Generation X captain MS Dhoni consider it?

I would pick the 60 odd that Laxman made on a vicious turner in Mumbai against Australia or the 55 that Tendulkar made in the same game. What about the way Damien Martyn played in the 2004 series in India? The hundred that Steve Waugh got at the Eden Gardens and the ones that Brian Lara got against the Aussies. Haven’t Shane Warne and Navjot Singh Sidhu played enough cricket and seen much more to put a magnificent T20 hundred on the same pedestal as the runs scored in the heat of Test cricket?

Brilliant hundred by Pathan; chanceless, clean and brutal along with some deft strokes in a tough situation but give me Dravid, Ponting, Tendulkar, Gambhir, Sehwag, Jesse Ryder, Hussey, Jayawardene, Sangakarra, Kallis, Duminy, Clarke against a good Test attack or a recording of the double hundred that Sir Gary Sobers got against the rest of the world any day.

This is not to take away from the super effort of Pathan but this wasn’t even remotely close to the dozens of 50s that I’ve seen in tougher situations leave apart the many hundreds and the double and triple ones.

Indians are considered to be good players of spin and Indian wickets traditionally are suited for spin bowling and if Shane Warne wants to understand what I mean then he has to see that he never got a five-wicket haul in an innings against India in India till 2004 in Chennai. He took 6 for 125 in 42.3 overs in India’s first innings of 376 and it was a tantalising contest where rain on the fifth day was the winner and the match a draw.

In the last match of the same series in Mumbai, Michael Clarke took 6 for 9 in 6.2 overs in India’s second innings and still ended up on the losing side. Warne could never manage to bowl Australia to victory against India. He chipped in but he was never the one man responsible and here also Michael Clarke beats him. In 2008 in Sydney when the shadows were lengthening and it seemed that India would hang on for a draw with just about 10 minutes of play left and three wickets in hand, Michael Clarke took three wickets in five balls with his left-arm spin.

Does it mean that Clarke is a great spinner or does it mean that he’s had a couple of lucky days? Can Clarke be compared to the Wizard of Oz? As a spinner, Clarke would probably not make it to a good club’s playing XI while Warne would be a serious contender to a four-man bowling attack picked out of over a hundred years of Test cricket.

The T20 lesson: Enjoy the fun but don’t lose your perspective mate.

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